The internationally acclaimed pianist and avid outdoorsman Barry Hannigan is closing out his career at Bucknell. Hannigan, the Ellen P. Williams Professor of Music, has performed more than 100 concerts for the University community and will offer a series of farewell recitals this spring.
By Sherri Kimmel
Q: You’ll be retiring at the end of this academic year, after 38 years at Bucknell.
A: I think I’m number two on the list of having been at Bucknell the longest. I was just a kid when I got my job. I was only 27.
Q: But you’re not going to be kicking back your final semester. You’ll be hard at work in the concert hall. Can you give us a sneak peak at what’s in store as you bring a lifetime of performing to a close?
A: I’ll play Feb. 21 and 24 with the Fitzwilliam String Quartet, who are coming from England. When I first got to Bucknell in 1978, I played with them. That’s just amazing, to be able to have that bookend to my career. We’re probably playing Brahms’ Quintet and maybe some Schubert. The final concert is on April 2 with my wife, Mary, a flutist, who’s been playing at Bucknell all those years, too.
Q: You’re a native Coloradan, and you and Mary have spent every summer for the last 37 years in the mountains, on family land. You’ll be retiring to Colorado, and you’re an avid fly fisher, hiker, biker and runner. Can you talk a little bit about the source of what you call your “mania for outdoor life”?
A: It includes windsurfing, rock climbing, kayaking, backpacking and a few other things. It has to do with balance. When school is in session and I’m traveling to perform, I have no free time. To be in top form, I need to practice three to five hours a day and rearrange my teaching schedule to accommodate days away from campus. The stress can be enormous. So the few exercise and outdoor activities I’m able to fit in are what keep me sane. When summer comes, it’s wonderful to have the teeter totter go down the other direction and do things that restore some kind of balance and get my body strong again. I still practice every day, but large blocks of time are available to go for long bike rides or hikes.
Q: Has your desire to lead an active outdoor life influenced your decision to retire now?
A: Yes. There’s a clock ticking, and we’ve wanted to do some big things for a long time — ride our bikes across the country, complete the Tour du Mont Blanc, hike the Inca Trail, raft the Grand Canyon. You don’t see many 80-year-olds doing that. We want to see how much we can do before we take up bridge and professional crossword-puzzle making.
Q: Are you taking a favorite keyboard with you when you move to Colorado?
A: I have a Steinway B, which is a 7-foot concert piano. It’s been with me for 35 years, so it’s like my child. I love it. It’s going with me.